Gene editing is a technology that offers tremendous benefit to society through human health and food production improvements. The potential to solve a broad array of challenges, ability to make precise improvements, and the relative affordability of the technology has generated tremendous interest in developing gene editing. As more agricultural organizations and food companies explore gene editing, a question comes to mind. Do we, as food system leaders, have consumers’ permission to utilize gene editing technologies in food production? To address this question, CFI members and partners formed the Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture in 2016 to engage with consumers and stakeholders, working together to earn permission and trust around gene editing.
What is gene editing?
Gene editing makes precise, intentional and beneficial changes in the genetic material of plants and animals used in food production, which can improve their health and sustainability. This often mirrors changes that could occur in nature or through traditional breeding. Gene editing helps farmers keep pace with the growing demand for more and better food, while using less water, land, nutrients and other resources.
What is the role of the Coalition?
The Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture strives for global understanding and acceptance of gene editing technology in agriculture and food. Coalition participants have a shared mission to earn trust in gene editing to help provide consumers with safe, nutritious and affordable food produced in sustainable systems.
Agriculture and food system leaders feel it is imperative to openly and transparently communicate with stakeholders and consumers about the benefits and responsible use of gene editing as products are being researched and developed.
The current workstreams of the Coalition are centered around creating a system-wide responsible use framework; developing communication best practices, toolkit and training; and implementing a stakeholder outreach campaign.
The Coalition developed a voluntary Framework for responsible gene editing in food and agriculture. To achieve its goal, the framework must be credible, workable and affordable, while providing the necessary transparency and assurances of responsible use. The Framework was developed by representatives from food companies, academic institutions, farmer organizations, non-governmental organizations, gene-editing technology developers and related associations. The Coalition collected feedback on the draft guidelines from diverse stakeholders and incorporated the input into the final Framework.
The Coalition launched a communication resource focused on public perception and communication materials for those researching, developing and communicating about gene editing in food and agriculture in 2018. Gene Editing: Engage in the Conversation was updated in June 2021 to incorporate the latest findings.
To learn more about how your organization can join or support the Coalition, contact Keely Coppess.